Thou Know’st Us Happy
Is there sex in heaven? A reader asks:
On this earth, we’re never going to run away from the problem of fidelity, whether sexual or emotional, and it may be prudent to err on the side of caution in terms of forming friendships with members of the opposite sex especially after one is married. So, for example, even if I begin to form a friendship with another woman, I imagine it would be prudent to limit interaction with the other person to situations where the wife is around, and to also avoid disclosing information I may freely disclose to my male friends.
What do you imagine this would look like in heaven? Will there still be the sexual tension that requires this sort of caution? Or will we be able to share our lives with each other freely without getting ourselves into the kind of emotional messes that plague us down here? Or will we just be as prudent in heaven without feeling like we’re being denied something – that is, the situation in heaven will be much like what it is here except that we will just think that having ‘restricted’ relationships is the normal thing to do and accept it with contentment?
A word of warning: for earthly men to speculate of heavenly things is like seven-year-olds debating what their parent’s wedding night was like, dealing with concepts hidden from them, or not understood. We can only grope with metaphors and strained analogies, while yet we know all metaphors are false, and all analogies are incomplete.
And a note on grammar: The word ‘gender’ refers to word endings, not to people. This word started, a few years back (not so long ago for those with long memories) to be used by the Politically Correct as a deception, in order to put across the strange notion that sex was optional. The idea was that sex was a biological reality but that ‘gender’ was a social role, ergo sex is fixed by nature but ‘gender’ is defined by society. The unspoken implication is that society is unfair to women and to effete men by asking them to fit into feminine
and masculine roles.
Now, in this case, if we may speak with a nicety of precision, because (if my idea of spiritual reality is correct) spirits would still have masculine and feminine ‘gender’ albeit they will in heaven have left their biological natures behind them with their corpse.
As I understand it, spirits do not have sex in the biological sense, but they do have ‘gender’ in the spiritual sense, which is to say, maleness and femaleness. It is for this reason, among many, that sane men speak of God as a He, and not as a He/She, They, or It.
On earth, a friendship between a man and a woman often, if not always, has a slight romantic tinge or tone, a temptation to flirt, or, at least, a demand that the man be gallant and protective, which would never occur between two male friends.
It is wise never to be alone with an attractive friend of the opposite sex, but always to have one’s wife or child or some other friend within eyesight, so that a man’s natural gallantry does not offer any near occasion of sin.
Other men are no doubt more chaste and pure of heart than am I, and perhaps need not take these precautions. But I have a romantic soul, and, alas, I was exposed to far too many girly picture in my youth, and far too much of the antimorals of the sexual revolution for me to shrug aside merely with an act of the intellect.
As far conditions in heaven, I only know what poets say. Milton, in PARADISE LOST Book VIII asks the archangel Raphael about erotic love in heaven. He says this:
Love not the heav’nly Spirits, and how thir Love
Express they, by looks only, or do they mix
Irradiance, virtual or immediate touch?
To whom the Angel with a smile that glow’d
Celestial rosie red, Loves proper hue,
Answer’d. Let it suffice thee that thou know’st
Us happie, and without Love no happiness.
Whatever pure thou in the body enjoy’st
(And pure thou wert created) we enjoy
In eminence, and obstacle find none
Of membrane, joint, or limb, exclusive bars:
Easier then Air with Air, if Spirits embrace,
Total they mix, Union of Pure with Pure
Desiring; nor restrain’d conveyance need
As Flesh to mix with Flesh, or Soul with Soul.
If we are asking whether there was sex in Eden before the Fall, there are many Church fathers and learned doctors who teach this, as poets so sing. The idea of paradise as abstinent does not spring from the lusty ancient world nor from the dazzling bright logic and lucid reasoning of the Middle Ages (ironically called Dark) but from the Puritan world on the Northern fringes of the Continent in rebellion against the ancient civilization of Europe. The medievals were not in rebellion against the pleasures, sexual and otherwise, heaven in love granted mankind as generous and precious gifts. That movement came from the sons of the Prophet to the barren south, who hide the beautiful faces of women behind veils, and from the Puritans to the cold north, who refused the joys of dancing and drinking wine and beer. Or is it the other group who won’t drink wine? Or both? Yet Milton, who is as Puritan a poet as they come, celebrated the vivid connubial love of the father and mother of our race.
It is not sexual congress that is bad. The Church has never taught this. It is the abuse of sex that is bad: sex outside its proper place, proper partner, not consecrated in divine matrimony, not ordered toward sexual reproduction, not full, not complete, not sane. Sex is bad when it is treated lightly, if not (since it is divine) treated blasphemously, as merely an indoor mixed doubles recreational sport. It is not the Church that teaches sex is bad. She teaches that sex is miraculous, rapturous, supernal. It is the world that treats sex as trash.
So much for conditions at Genesis. What about after the Apocalypse? If we are asking whether masculine and feminine spirits in heaven will look upon each other’s naked souls unshamed, the answer is yes, for we shall all be cleared and purified by that living water which issues from the throne of God, if not from the sacred heart of Christ.
We have only a very few examples of what the flesh might be like of those whose fleshly nature was not corrupted and heavy with disobedience. Of Adam and Eve, we can deduce that woman was neither subject to her husband nor brought forth children in pain; and that man had such command over nature, or perhaps over his own appetites, that he did not need to struggle with the earth, and plant and sew and reap for his bread.
Before the Fall, sickness and sorrow was unknown as sin; for we know sin introduced those sad things to men. Before Eden as well as after Christ, men can handle serpents and tread scorpions and close the mouths of lions with a finger, for these lesser beasts are once more in their proper subservient relation to man as man is in his proper subservient relation to God. Smaller beasts than these, lice and bugs and microbes, would not afflict unfallen Man with plague any more than the lionesses in paradise will bite.
We also hear of miracles from Christ and His saints, that for men not severed from heaven, wine can be made from water by the gallon, or multitudes fed from a little boy’s lunch; other saints are said to have lived on nothing but the Eucharist, or been assumed up into the air like clouds, or been seen in two places at once, or in far lands in a twinkling. This implies a very different relationship between soul and body, or different types of bodies, or laws of nature whose chains bind no so tightly. The doctors of the Church call such bodies prelapsarian as Adam before the Fall, or glorified, as Christ after He was Risen.
Our flesh shall be filled with clarity like the sun, perfect and beautiful, too bright for sinful eyes to look up; shall be as agile as a thought, hence able to travel from one place to another with the speed of imagination, or be in two places at once as certain saints could do, or levitate with the gaiety of angelic warriors,; shall be free of defect and impervious to pain or disease; and our bodies shall be subtle in substance, hence able to pass through wall and locked doors even as Christ Himself passed through locked doors to greet His disciples with words of peace.
Now Christ sat with His men and ate fish and drank wine, and did so with real gusto and taste, not as a metaphor nor as an illusion. I have no doubt that a sinless tongue can take greater pleasure, not less pleasure, from all the aspects of physical creation than we can. Wine will be more sweet, not less, and the only drunkenness shall be the rose-colored enthusiasm of divine love.
Again, I do not know the Church teaching on this point, and I offer only speculation, but by analogy, the sexual pleasures in heaven should be as heaven as the pleasures of feasting and drinking. That is, everything will be put back in its original nature Adam and Even knew in Eden, unstained, unmarred, unafraid, bright as a lightningbolt and deep as the sea.
There would seem to be no need of procreation among immortal spirits, but if, after Doomsday, God creates the new Heaven and the new Earth, a heaven which Lucifer’s footstep before he fell never trod, an Earth where the new Eve, Mary, never disobeyed, who can say whether we will once again be commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and go forth, and fill it? There is no need for procreation among spirits, but then again, there was no need for Creation itself. God commanded the cosmos into being by the sheer arbitrary fiat of His volcanic overflowing super-abundant love and good will, not because He needed us or was lonely.
But this is all speculation, and wiser heads than mine must be sought if you want a firmer answer.
Of the other part of the question, I can speak with more certainty: it is not logically possible that God will open up to us His treasuries of love, of bliss, of peace that surpasses understanding, and that we will be speechless with joy or shouting with joy and fill the universe with song until the starry walls are shaking, and yet at the same time we will be plagued by temptations, deceptive desires, uncertainties, jealousies, longings, or lusts for the wives of other men.
Christ Himself has said that we in heaven will not marry nor will women be given in marriage. I do not think this means that erotic love will be removed; but I think it will be complete, its nature filled up and turned into something supernatural, something for which we on Earth have no name and which we cannot picture in our imaginations.
We cannot imagine a chaste orgy; we cannot imagine a love that is at once as rowdy and earthly and low as erotic love and as pure and high as divine and selfless love. The closest hint we have here on Earth is the bridegroom’s wedding night, when he is both filled with impatient lusts and elevated by patience and tenderness a man can only feel for his bride. The sacrament of marriage somehow combines what sin has sundered in our human nature.
But in heaven, Christ is the bridegroom and we are all His bride: who can imagine what the sacraments are there?
I cannot imagine. I doubt any man can. This is because we are blind moles here, and have only the slightest notion of what love is. God is love. God is infinite. Love is infinite. Who can measure it?
We know only what has been written: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.